CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The passage in Congress of a bill making military training for college students mandatory earned opposition not just from a youth party-list, but also from college students in this region.
On December 15, 2022, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 6687 known as the National Citizens Service Training Program (NCSTP) on its second and third readings with 276 votes against four votes against the bill.
The NCSTP was certified as “urgent” by Pres. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. and is one of the programs pushed by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte.
NCSTP will replace the National Service Training Program Act of 2001 enacted through RA 9163, which includes the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in the three components of national service as an optional component program for college students.
House Committee on Higher and Technical Education Chair Mark Go argued that NCSTP only seeks to instill among the youth patriotism and nationalism in “adherence to the Constitution”.
But 20-year-old Miguel Ladra, a student from Xavier University, questioned the purpose of military service to students.
“The call for mandatory ROTC is patriotism, but serving the nation isn’t limited to that. Besides, NSTP already exists. As a BS Biology student, my field does not line up with military stuff since it’s more in tune with healthcare or research after graduation,” he said.
His schoolmate, Myko Tabbay, 21, said on top of having to adjust from the mishaps of the K-12 program and blended learning, mandatory military training may be a hindrance to the performance and well-being of students.
“Many people say students today are weaklings for opposing the mandatory ROTC. But they don’t know the struggles and stresses students face because of the K to 12 programs. Almost all of us are focused on trying to survive college. Besides, taking up ROTC should be a choice, not mandatory,” he added.
The past two years during the pandemic also added to the stress of students who struggled with online and blended learning.
Meanwhile, nursing student Lay Celestial from Central Mindanao University in Bukidnon talks about his experience in ROTC exposed him to “power tripping” from cadet officers.
“I don’t see its purpose. ROTC is just a mere implementation of their strict rules. It’s like forcing patriotism onto us which is ironic since we’re supposed to be a democratic country. I’ve also witnessed how officers abuse their authority sometimes through punishments (on cadets) that they combine with (power) tripping. They don’t care if they embarrass the cadet,” she said.
The nursing student added the physical well-being of a prospective cadet should be considered and the culture of impunity is not the way to discipline people into submission.
NCSTP, while keeping ROTC optional, states that one of its goals is to “constitute the youth into a major component of the Citizen Armed Force envisioned in the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, which shall undergo training and may be called upon to defend the State and render personal military or civil service under conditions provided by law.”
All students enrolled in undergraduate degree programs at public and private higher educational institutions, as well as at least two-year Technical-Vocational Education and Training courses in all technical vocational institutions in the country, must finish the two-year NCST, according to the bill.
Citizen soldier training, individual survival and safety skills, community disaster response, and management are all expected from those who finish the program.
Kabataan Party-list has called the passage of the NCSTP bill a brazen railroading of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), campus militarization, and imposition of additional other school fees among others.
“The Bill essentially erases any genuine sense of academic freedom in campuses nationwide. This bill, for the record, was also not well-consulted with our youth and student constituency,” the group said.
House Bill 6687 is tentatively slated to be sent to the Senate for deliberation. (davaotoday.com)philippines, ROTC